Nestled at altitude in the Mt. Lofty Ranges about a two hour drive north from Adelaide, lies one of Australia’s hidden gems of wine: the Clare Valley. First planted in 1840 by John Horrocks, the Clare Valley is a myriad of valley and hillside vineyards and brings together two unusual factors in grape growing, high elevations and sedimentary soils. Often, vineyards at elevation are subject to poor, shallow soils due to erosion over time, but the ancient rivers that once flowed through the Mt. Lofty Ranges, deposited sand and gravel here. This has given the Clare Valley unique circumstances with complex, diverse soils under marginal growing conditions that naturally limit vine vigor.
The Clare Valley enjoys a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and cool to cold winters, with about 24 inches (61cm) of rain every year falling mainly during the winter and early spring months. Due to the Clare Valley’s altitude, with vineyards ranging from 1000-1600 feet (300-500m) above sea level, there is a dramatic diurnal shift that occurs between hot days and chilly nights that adds to the complexity and longevity of the wines from the region.
Unique within Australia, Clare Valley Riesling is considered to be world class, made in a bone-dry style with crisp acidity and powerful aromas. Not to be forgotten are the red wines, mostly made from Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon, which can maintain power and weight in the glass despite coming from what is considered to be a “cooler” region just north of the warm Barossa Valley.
While there are no legally recognized sub-regions within the Clare Valley, smaller localities have gained local, if not international acclaim. Areas such as Watervale, Polish Hill and Sevenhill have emerged as potentially official sub-zones due to their exceptional character and quality.